Custom Bag Stiffener, and Decaleur install.

People are always asking what I'm talking about when I tell them I'm going to make them a bag stiffener. I can't stand floppy bags tugging on my steering imputes and being all floppy and ill fitting and gross.

So I got to do one today for a friend's custom Waxwingco bag. So I took a few photos so you all can see how I make them, and make them yourself. Trust me, they will change your life. Even if you think you don't mind your ill fitting floppy bag, you will be so happy to see how much better it is and not be able to believe you lived without it.

I use some pretty thin one inch alloy strap from my local hardware store. It's $4 and plenty long enough for any bag I've ever done.

Above I've cut it to size and marked the centers for drilling and bending.

The first thing to do is measure the bag. I like to measure the back side of the bag first, then the side. Luke's bag was 24 cm across the back, and 14 cm on the side. I don't like the sides to go all the way to the ends so there is a little more room for over-stuffing.  I like to mark the bends, so the first line is at 11 cm, then measure the 24 cm, mark a line, and then another one at 11 cm.

Pictured below is a rounded end. I like to round the ends, just because it's nice and it's less likely to cut or catch on your bag. I like to use the vice and a file. I know files can be awkward if you're not used to them, but I'm just so much faster with a file than a grinder. But, use what works for you.

Pictured below I'm drilling the holes for the mounting bolts. I determine where to mark these by holding the decaileur up to the center of the back at 12 cm for the decaleur center, and the imaginary center of the side pieces at 7 cm from the bend. Then i take the caliper and mark the center line of the strap so the drill holes are centered.

This is a stiffener, not a show piece so you don't have to worry about it being super precise. I like to drill the holes a little over size, usually with a 1/4" bit, just in case they are a little off. You can also use a small file to extend a hole if it's a few millimeters off.

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I used my drill press because it's fun and easy and I have an X Y vice. You can do this with a hand drill clamped to the work bench just as easy.

Once all the holes are drilled out to 1/4 inch it's time to bend. I use my vice, but you can do this over the corner of a table or whatever. If you try to bend to thick a piece of alloy it will just snap, so stick to the thin stuff it's plenty stiff.

Pictured above you can see the bending line totally flat and square to the vice. Bending alloy is super easy and you don't need any special jigs. Just make sure it's clamped straight where you are bending it, or the alloy will take on a complex angle and fit poorly.

Flip it over and bend the other side too.

Hold the piece up to make sure it fits the way you like and the decaleur center hole lines up with the center of the bag. then it's time to put holes in the bag.

There are a few ways of doing this. Synthetic bags such as Swift Industries it's best to poke a hole with a hot soldering iron. This hot iron method will punch holes through the bag and melt the material around the holes to seal them up. With leather I use a leather punch or a drill. Honestly the drill works best, especially the sides where the pocket is in the way of getting the leather punch in there.

Above We're using the Nitto decaileur that we get from Cycles Grand Bois. It replaces the stem bolt. This decaileur seems to work pretty well, but your bag has to line up with your stem just right. We had Luke's bag custom made to fit his stem height just right! But the nice thing about this style bag stiffener is that it doesn't stiffen your bag vertically so you can stretch or let the bag sag a tinny bit and it still looks like it fits and sits on the rack correctly.

Nitto stems have a strange bevel on the back side. The more expensive stems come with a threaded triangular nut with the bevel built in, but the threads don't match with the decaleur. So you have to take a drill bit and drill them out a bit and add a nut. Some of the decaleur come with these bits already modified. I sell just the wedge and lock nut separately  too if you need them.

It's all about the hardware! use nylock lock nuts! and make sure the threads poke through at least one full thread or they will come loose. If the threads poke out to much they may stab or scratch you stuff. 

I once stuffed a six pack of cans in my bag only to find out that the bolts poked holes in a few of the cans and filled my bag with beer.

I typically use 12 mm m5 button heads on the sides and 16 mm m5 button heads on the back with large fender washers. Yes we sell all this, but most decaleur kits come with most of the hardware you will need. For some reason almost everything from Japan comes with regular nuts not nylock. I through them away and replace them with nylock! And, you should too!

Above, the bag side of the decaleur sits in the stem side. Below the bag side is slid out making the bag supper fast and easy to pull on and off the bike while being very stiff and stout while ridding. Seriously the most superior system!

And there you have a quick release bag, that's stiff and stable while ridding. It's the best off all worlds.

Don't put it off!

Don't push it off till the weather is "perfect"

I've been putting off new tires and brake pads, and some cleaning on my bike for months. Just being miserable, not liking the way my bike looks, not liking the way my bike rides. 

I'm just ridding slowly, feeling embarrassed, being miserable. It might not be late enough, weather wise, but it is way to late maintenance wise. 

Don't put it off, work on your bike! Shifting not so crisp, clean your drive train, and tweak your barrel adjusters. Brakes weak, replace your pads and lube your cables. Bike looking gross and not inspiring you to fall in love with it everyday, give it a clean. Riding slow, taking turns like your walking on the edge of a cliff, put some new tires on! Creaking peddles or drive train, replace worn parts, and find out why you fell in love with cycling again.

I hated my peddles, they were ugly, they creaked, they were worn out, so finally after months and months I got around to installing some Shimano  SPD's. They're silver, and once I stripped the logo off they looked pretty good!

This one little step, this one little improvement...and getting a second flat on my dirty worn out tires in a week, motivated me to keep going, to get my whole bike up to snuff.

I'm lucky enough, or really smart enough to have bought a large utility sink, so i can really get in there with soap and water and get wheels clean! If the tires are in good shape I will leave them on and scrub the crap out of them. Lately I've taken to using the Super Soap we have for cleaning our hands and scrubbing the gum walls with that on some Scotch-bright pads!

Oh so clean, you almost can't tell that they were black with road grime and making hate my bike for months!

Nothing feels as good as mounting new tires on clean wheels, and knowing they're going on a clean bike with new brake pads. It's like the bike is new again.

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While replacing the pads I caught a real problem. My rear brakes squealed a bit in the wet, they always have, and I'm always adjusting them but the squeal is always coming back. While replacing the pads I noticed that on the squealing side the post come a little loose from the pad holder. Even though they were New Old Stock.

 I replaced the holder with one out of my used Mafac parts drawer and so far no squeal! I might have also saved myself a brake failure while bombing down a hill or something! I'm starting to see the Value in the new Compass one piece pad holders. I think they will be going on my bike soon!

 This reminds me that the best time to find a potential problem is while servicing your bike. That's why your mechanic is always calling you while your bike is in the shop. No matter how hard they look your bike over in the estimate process you find other things once your in there and inspecting the parts in your hand!

But that's not the point, the point is, a tiny bit of work you put off can make you miserable, but just putting in an hour or two and a few new parts can make you fall in love with cycling all over again. Don't put it off, it's not worth it! Just look at all the dirt I knocked off my bike, most from under my fenders. You don't want to be carrying all that crud around.

This happens all the time with people that hate their saddles, or don't want to spend money on fenders. I always tell them it's worth it, other saddles exist, rolling around in Portland's wet weather without fenders just isn't worth putting off spending a little money. Skunk stripes aren't cool, besides what else are you going to spend your money on? Fenders, and comfortable saddles will last for years, that bar tab, or latest gadget you don't really need is a waste!

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The only sad part is that it's still raining every day and my pretty Compass tires are already starting to get dirty.

Grand Opening Party

We did it, we had a little Grand Opening Party. It was right after Thanksgiving so lots of people couldn't make it. That was sad. But, lots of cool kids did make it and it was great fun! Enjoy the photos!

This first set was found on my phone the next day. I think Leah of Gladys Bikes took them, or at least the majority of them.

Our buddy Mark took some pics too and made a Flickr page with them. Check it out here. Way less photos of James middle finger taking center stage. I can't help myself so I stole a bunch of his pics and put them below.